Hey, guys! I know you haven't seen anything from me in a long while, but that's going to change, because summer's here! Nothing was coming to my mind in terms of what I could do for my stories, so I decided to delete all my unfinished ones (leaving one left that nobody really reads, anyway *cue weary sigh*) and start them over from scratch. Mixed Messages is the first. This first chapter is much longer than the original, and hopefully much better, too!
Chapter 1: Moving In
Laura stuck her head out of one of the backseat windows, more than a few locks of dark, auburn hair flying out of her ponytail and whipping her in the face. As her parents' car sped along, the businesses, restaurants, and large buildings of downtown gave way to a dirtier and run-down neighborhood; black kids, most of them her own age, stared as they whizzed by. The houses eventually became nicer and more cozy-looking, until black faces changed to white. As the car slowed, the faces became clearer and more incredulous, until finally they stopped. Laura's father stopped the car, and her parents stepped out.
Her mother appeared in front of her. "Come on, you lump," she said affectionately, and opened the door, ignoring Laura's cry as she nearly fell out of the car. "We have to unload the commuter van (1), and then go to your school, so we can find out what classes you have to take."
Laura, by now out of the van, looked up hopefully at this. "Do you think that they might let me join the football team?"
Her mother sighed and brushed Laura's hair away from her face. "Maybe." Then she frowned. "But I don't want a repeat of what happened in Mississippi. What possessed you to ask one of the most close-minded states in the country a question like that, I can only imagine." Seeming to get over this, she pointed to the back of the van. "We can talk about this later; let's get back to unpacking."
The strange thing was, Laura noted, as they went back and forth carrying various items, was that no one was to be seen. Oh, she would catch a glimpse or two of faces behind flickering curtains, but no one would come out of their houses and greet them. Suddenly, the reason came over Laura and hit her like a ton of bricks. She turned to her mother when they were outside, unloading one of the last items from the van. "Mom?" Her mother—who was pulling out a particularly stubborn box—didn't answer, but nodded to show she was listening. "Why did we move into a white neighborhood?" Her mother stopped pulling and stared at her. "Wouldn't black people maybe be more understanding of our situation? I could understand if it wasn't by much, but they'd at least try."
The older woman put the box down. "Do you remember what it was like in Mississippi? How our family was ostracized, more than any black family? How Chiumbo had to struggle to survive each day, with almost no one's help? Oh, all the times we came close to losing him..." She took in a shuddery breath. "We—Chiumbo and I—chose this house to fight that. We as a family can legally buy the best house we can afford, no matter which neighborhood it's in." She gave a little half-smile. "It also helped that I was the one who checked the house over with the realtor and brought the money to pay for it." She picked up the box and carried to the house, Laura following her with the last few packages.
"Hello, darling," Setting down the box, she kissed her husband on the cheek and took Laura's load away from her. "Why don't you two go down to the school and get Laura's schedule and do the tour? I can meet the movers and help finish the unpacking."
Squeezing her mother in a tight hug, she kissed her cheek and smiled. "Thanks, Mom." Releasing her, Laura bounded out the door and climbed into the passenger seat, already buckled by the time her father was down the sidewalk.
He chuckled as he slid in next to her. "Anxious, honey?" Smiling at the face his daughter gave him, he buckled and started the car, and they drove off. Keeping the windows up this time, she could see the faces rewind at top speed: white, nice house; white, less than nice; black, ghetto. Downtown was more diverse, but it was still clear exactly where the black and white stores were. Eventually, the schools began to show up, and her father stopped at a large, brown brick building. T.C. Williams High School. It was funny; it seemed more imposing in person than it did on a brochure. Perhaps that was the power of leaflets, she wondered, as she and her father walked up the almost never-ending sidewalk to the front door. Thankfully, it was unlocked, and they walked into the colder, cleaner—not to say that the outside wasn't nearly impeccable—interior of the building.
The secretary looked up, eyes flickering over Chiumbo's obvious blackness. They widened as they took in Laura's hair, her green eyes and olive skin. "How can I help you?" she said awkwardly.
"My daughter should be transferred to your high school for this fall," Laura's father said quietly.
The woman nodded smartly, regaining her composure. "Name?"
"Can you spell her last name for me?" He did so, and her fingers flew across the keys. "Ah, here we go." She glanced at him. "Is your name, um...Chi-yum-bo...?"
"No, it's pronounced Chee-yoom-bo."
She took note of that. "And your mother is Barbara Eldon?" She stared at something at the screen, frowning a little.
"Yes. And she is white." He gave the secretary a very pointed look.
She flushed, and began typing again. After a while, she asked, "Are there any extracurricular activities you'd like to join?" She looked at Laura.
The girl grinned eagerly. "Are there any spots open on the football team?"
"You know, I think they accept players each year." She paused, typing for a few seconds. "They have a three-week training camp for the players at a nearby university, and anyone who chooses to stay on after the camp is over, that's good enough, stays on the team for the rest of the season. There's an informational meeting in the gym on Wednesday at 2:30, and then camp starts exactly a week after, on August 1st. " (2) Are there any other extracurriculars you'd like to take?"
Laura and her father shared a smile. "Do you have any cooking classes, Mrs. Brooks?" She'd sneaked a look at the plaque on the counter next to the woman.
"Yes, we do, actually." Mrs. Brooks glanced up at the pair in front of her. "Why? Is there any particular reason?"
"It isn't exactly one of my strengths..." Laura began, and her father gave a loud bark of laughter, ignoring her glares..
The secretary smiled. "I see," she finally said. "Well, I'll have you signed up for those as soon as possible." She stood up from her desk and walked around, ending up next to them. "Would you like to take the tour now?"
"Of course," said Chiumbo. With that, they walked out of the main office and turned, going down the hallway.
"I had no idea that the school would be so huge!" Laura said as she and her father strode back to their car, giving one last wave to Mrs. Brooks. They turned around, and her face grew sullen. "But I'm going to be all over the place; all four of my morning classes are consecutively on opposite sides of the building, on the third floor (2), and gym's right after lunch!" She sighed. "Between that and football—if I even get onto the team, that is—I'll probably have one of the worst classes in the history of this school."
Chiumbo smiled, and patted his daughter on the back. "Laura, this school is only eight years old."
"See? That only emphasizes my point!" They climbed into the van, and drove off into the newly setting sun.
The large, beige moving van blocked the driveway, and Chiumbo was forced to park across the street. As he and his daughter moved into the house, they ducked and dodged the bulky movers, and found Barbara amidst the flurry of furniture.
She kissed her husband on the cheek. "How was the tour?" she asked, ruffling Laura's hair.
The girl shrugged. "It was alright. I mean, I don't exactly have the world's best schedule, but it seems like a nice place. And at least I'll have a secretary to turn to if anything goes wrong."
Barbara smiled. "That's my girl." Then she released Laura's head and stepped away from the other two. "Laura, there are supposed to be people in the kitchen installing the refrigerator. Would you mind checking on them while I see how things in the parlor are? Thank you." Without waiting for an answer, she stalked away, dragging Chiumbo with her.
Wow; thanks, Mom, Laura thought as she oversaw the movers fiddling with her family's appliances. The doorbell rang, bringing her out of her stupor. "I'll get it!" she yelled, ready to do anything to get out of her current situation. Weaving her way to the door, she opened it, and almost closed it again. For there, standing right before her (well, one was in a wheelchair), were two boys about her own age, one white, one black, and both completely unfamiliar to her. She stepped a bit further behind the door, ready to slam it at any second. "Who are you? What do you want?"
They both grinned at her. "I'm Gerry Bertier ," the white one in the wheelchair said, "and this is my friend Julius Campbell."
The black boy, Julius, extended a hand to her. "Nice to meetcha." She shook it, and Gerry's, too.
Laura let the door hang open now. "I have to ask, though; how did you know I was moving in here?"
"I saw your family come in earlier this mornin'," Gerry said, "and Julius and I both saw the moving van come in. I'm in your neighborhood, so I thought we should both come in and say hi."
"You two going to T.C. Williams?" She had to stop herself from correcting her grammar slip, thanking the Lord that her parents weren't there. (3)
"'Course." This was Julius. "That's the only place where a black boy and a white boy could be friends and expect to live. You goin' to school there?"
As Laura laughed, she couldn't help but notice the one thing Gerry and Julius seemed to have to have in common. "Yeah. Are you both on the football team?" She knew a letterman jacket when she saw one.
"If you lookin' to find a man there, I'm not really sure that's the best way to go."
"No, actually I was wondering if I could join."
That put a stop to the boys' laughter; they stared at her. Gerry began running a hand through his hair. "First black people, and now this." He chuckled as Julius hit him.
(1): Vans like the one Laura's family has were called commuter vans, because they could hold fifteen or more people. The idea of having such a huge van just appealed to me, and it's really practical for moving, too.
(2): Before anyone says anything, I know that camp started on August 15th in the movie. And there wasn't an informational meeting, either, as far as I know.
(3): Bad grammar really irritates me, and I've decided that it's going to irritate Laura's parents, too. I might include some 70's lingo that doesn't sound too stupid in the next chapter, but I don't know if that would make it sound fake or not.
Well, that's it! This is a rewrite, so I'm really being serious when I ask you all to review and PM and tell me what you think about this chapter. It's going to be a lot more developed than the last story (Those of you who've read it will know what I'm talking about.), and much better. Trust me.